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Ashland University Professor Authors "Curious Critters" Book

A new children’s picture book by Ashland University professor David FitzSimmons titled “Curious Critters” features stunning animal images and entertaining vignettes, with animals talking about their everyday lives in nature.

Ashland, OH, October 19, 2011 --( Beautiful butterflies, bright red beetles and a big brown bat are just a few of the curious critters in a new children’s picture book by Ashland University professor David FitzSimmons. “Curious Critters” features stunning animal images and entertaining vignettes, with animals talking about their everyday lives in nature.

FitzSimmons, an associate professor of English at Ashland University, said “Curious Critters” is meant to educate, entertain and inspire.

In this children’s picture book, FitzSimmons turns his camera on a variety of animals common throughout North America. “Curious Critters” presents stunning images of everyday animals, including a red flat bark beetle, an Eastern spiny soft-shell turtle, a spotted salamander and many other intriguing creatures.

“Each Curious Critter is photographed against a white backdrop, showcasing the animals’ colors, textures and shapes with precision and clarity,” FitzSimmons said. “Along with each photo is a vignette, told from the critter’s perspective, which educates and entertains.”

A bush katydid explains her bubblegum-pink color, a poetic opossum opines upon her often-shortened name, and a far-from-modest black swallowtail butterfly lets readers in on her secret for avoiding predators.

“I really believe this will be a popular book in the classroom because it will not only delight students, but inspire a lifelong interest in nature,” he said.

A book launch celebration for the “Curious Critters” book will be held Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. in the Heritage Room of Myers Convocation Center. Sponsored by the Ashland University Department of English, the event will feature a slide show presentation and is open to the public.

FitzSimmons noted that the book meets the National Research Council life science standards for grades K through 4. “Before I wrote Curious Critters, I reviewed national science standards so that the book, while fun to read, would be useful to parents, teachers and librarians,” he said.

FitzSimmons listed a few examples of items that children can learn through this book, including:

What turtles and humans have in common
Why black swallowtail butterflies impersonates their toxic cousins
How Eastern box turtles can live longer than humans (over 150 years!)
If squirrels can fly
Why crayfish grow new legs
How bats find food
Why frogs sing (kids love hearing David sing like a bullfrog!)
How jumping spiders jump and why they never have to look over their shoulders.

The book features 21 different animals in photos that are accompanied by vignettes, as well as a total of 29 different animal photos.

A couple of the photographed animals had ties to the Ashland University campus: the Chinese praying mantis was found on campus and the goldfish was an inhabitant of the biology and toxicology department. A number of the animals were photographed at the Gorman Nature Center and the Ohio Bird Sanctuary, both in Mansfield.

“Curious Critters” also includes a silhouette game that challenges readers to recall animal shapes and features an extensive glossary defining curious words associated with the critters, terms such as trill, echolocation, and larva.

FitzSimmons is a freelance photographer and writer as well as university professor. He photographs and writes for various magazines, including Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and Shutterbug, newspapers, and online publications, and his more than 100 calendar credits include numerous titles by BrownTrout and Barnes & Noble. Curious Critters is his first children’s picture book.

As one of four Sigma Pro photographers in North America, FitzSimmons presents seminars and workshops to a wide variety of audiences, from public school groups and college classes to nature centers and civic organizations. His works have been exhibited at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the National Center for Nature Photography, and the Telluride Photo Festival, among other venues.

A former high school English teacher, FitzSimmons has been in education for 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University, with a specialty in narrative theory - investigating the components of storytelling - something that influences his photography and writing.

Curious Critters will be available nationwide Nov. 7, but can be ordered from Wild Iris Publishing before the released date. Visit for more information or to order a copy signed and dedicated by Fitzsimmons. For more information about photography by FitzSimmons, go to

Sample images for media use are available from Fitzsimmons Photography by calling 419.892.2900 or email

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Ashland University
Steve Hannan

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